Pakistan sets up Islamic appellate court on Taliban’s demand

May 3rd, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, May 3 (DPA) The regional government in Pakistan’s restive North-West Frontier Province announced over the weekend the setting up of an Islamic appellate court, and stressed that Taliban militants must lay down arms.
The court, Dar-ul-Qaza, will hear appeals against decisions made by jurists appointed in recent weeks to introduce Islamic sharia law in the province’s Malakand division.

Authorities imposed the sharia law last month in pursuance of a February peace agreement with a pro-Taliban cleric to end months of fighting between the Taliban militants and the government forces in Swat, a district in Malakand.

Sufi Mohammad, who mediated between the agreement, gave assurances that the fighters would end their insurgency and disarm following the imposition of Islamic judicial system.

“The foremost demand of establishing Dar-ul-Qaza has been met,” provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told reporters in Peshawar Saturday. “Now there is no justification for taking up arms.”

Hussain said the government would have the right to act against armed men, adding that such people would also be considered rebels and even holding of their funeral prayers would be un-Islamic.

But the hard-line cleric expressed his dissent over the announcement, calling it “unilateral”. His comments came two days after he held talks with the government functionaries.

“We kept waiting for a second round of talks but we were not consulted,” Geo News television channel cited Mohammad’s spokesman, Amir Izzat Khan, as saying Sunday.

Khan told news channel Aaj that if the Taliban did not renounce violence, they (the mediators) would dissociate them from the peace pact.

The future of the deal already hangs in balance as militants loyal to Mohammad’s son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, who leads the Taliban in Swat valley, have already refused to give up arms and also expanded their control to at least two adjoining districts.

The forays into Buner and Lower Dir sent shivers through Western capitals and the government in Islamabad, prompting army operations involving aerial attacks late in April.

According to the military, more than 250 militants and a dozen soldiers were killed in five days of running clashes in Buner, where security forces are still battling to flush out the heavily armed rebels.

Buner holds strategic importance as it is located just 100 km north-west of the capital, Islamabad.

The assaults in the Malakand region have been hailed by Washington, which strongly believes that the US-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be won without eliminating the militants in Pakistan.

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